As Japan’s harsh winter takes its toll on zoo animals by causing problems from chapped feet to appetite loss, zookeepers do what they can to deal with the cold weather.

At Tama Zoo (Hino, Tokyo), where the temperature is about 3 degrees Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit) lower than central Tokyo, zookeepers keep the Bornean orangutans indoors when it is cold. The popular skywalk, built last April to provide a means for the orangutans to exercise their rope-walking skills, remains unused because the orangutans have been unwilling to venture outside since last November. Zoo officials shut down the skywalk in December because the baby orangutans, who usually cross the ropes with vigor, developed chapped feet.

Orangutan at Tama Zoo
Orangutan at Tama Zoo on a warm day

Even the elephants and rhinos, considered relatively resistant to cold weather with their thick skins, have had to move to heated indoor enclosures earlier and more often than usual.

At Ueno Zoo (Taito ward, Tokyo), zookeepers often bring the giraffes and elephants indoors early. “Prolonged exposure to cold temperatures weakens the physical condition of the animals, so we do what we can to keep them healthy,” says one zookeeper.

At Higashiyama Zoo in Nagoya, a flamingo suffered a leg injury caused by a piece of broken ice in the freezing pond.

At the Japanese Monkey Center (Inuyama, Aichi prefecture), zookeepers apply ointment to the frostbitten feet of South African long-haired spider monkeys. Other monkeys in the zoo hospital are suffering from colds and appetite loss.

It has been a tough winter for us all.

[Source: Asahi Shimbun]